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Three firefighters killed, four injured in Washington state

20 August 2015 16:56


Three firefighters have been killed and several more injured while battling raging wildfires in the US state of Washington.

The three firefighters from the US Forest Service died after their vehicle crashed as they battled a blaze Wednesday in north-central Washington, authorities said. Four other firefighters were injured.

“The firefighters were engaged in initial attack operations and were involved in a vehicle accident when it is believed that the fire overtook the vehicle,” according to a statement from US Forest Service.

The deaths came as a fast-moving wildfire forced authorities on Wednesday to order the evacuations of about 4,000 homes on the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in north-central Washington, an emergency management team said.

“It was a hellstorm up here,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told reporters. “The fire was racing and the winds were blowing in every direction and then it would shift. … It was tough on ’em up here.”

The fires have caused black smoke to cover more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) across the dry western part of Washington, prompting fire managers to call in help from the US Army and firefighting crews from neighboring states.

Scientists say the drought-stricken US West Coast has the potential to strengthen wildfires that could destroy homes, affect watersheds and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to extinguish during the warm summer months.

California’s drought has already cost the state billions of dollars and placed thousands of jobs at risk.

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